Shawl Club – Season 2

So I am now in full on crafting mode again after a little bit of a sabbatical.  Shawl Club Season 2 (“the sequel, just when you thought it was safe to go back into your stash…) has just launched over on the Unbelieva-wool page.  As I type, Shawl 1 is on the floor and on my mannequin, and I am pleased with the pattern as it is one of those easy to do and relatively easy to remember patterns.

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Last season I tried to vary the style and shape of the patterns so that there was something for everyone (the patterns are all available on my Ravelry store if you want to review them). It is quite a challenge to come up with a one skein shawl, especially those that will work with shorter as well as longer length skeins.  The firm favourites last time were the Thank You Shawl and the Shieldmaiden Shawl, but I also have a soft spot for the beaded arches shawlette – more of a scarf than a shawl but there is something special about that beading and it seems to be a popular shawl for gifting.

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This time I have learned a lot from what I felt worked well last time and this time I also want to keep with some easy makes with the occasional challenging element from time to time (but not too often).  I am trying to vary the shapes again, but it seems that you like it when I play with textures and lacework as much as I do, so expect me to revisit those themes again.  I also have an idea for some colour work shawls, and as ever Sam and I are keen to use as many luxury bases as we can.

I hope you enjoy Season 2, and if you haven’t tried it before consider giving it a try.  As ever, I am always here to help if you need me!

It’s showtime…

At the moment, its all about show prep.  The first show is actually the spring fair at my daughter’s school, where I am going to do a handicrafts stall. I am busy making lots of things that I think people will like, including shawls, socks, and baby things, as well as small things that I hope the children will want to buy like toys and so on.  The lady who organises the local craft group in my village has been a brilliant help and also has a small production line going of pretty sewn items and crocheted owl things.  Between us we are starting to accumulate a fair bit of stock. Pricing is going to be based on what I think the children will be able to afford as a suggested minimum donation, and I am hoping that the grown ups will be prepared to buy the more pricy items.  They aren’t pricy at all when you factor in the cost of the yarn and the time, but I know how it is and so I am just hoping that people will dig deep if something is pretty enough and is a one off. It will be interesting to see how it goes.

I have also got very excited about preparing for my first proper yarn show on my own.  I think I might have found a good one if they are prepared to let me in.  I just hope my patterns are considered good enough by the organisers.  I have some really beautiful kits planned and some of my favourite dyers have agreed to supply the yarn for them so I am just waiting for the word and then it will be all systems go.  I really enjoy the product design aspect of all this, especially the packing and presentation of it all.  I am itching to get started!

Since I last blogged I have also had a little treat trip to London to spend a voucher I was given for Loop.  Loop in London is a beautiful shop with super expensive yarns and extras.  It was such a treat to be able to splash out even though I am still on my yarn ban. I couldn’t resist this…

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The kindness of strangers

One of the best things about becoming a yarn-head is the community (or cult) you become part of. Yarn connects us all, but as I have connected with more people it is their biographies that are so interesting.  So many yarn folk are managing stressful personal situations or chronic illness. All of them have big hearts and keep an eye on others more than themselves.  They are crazy.  Many (if not most) are tattooed and / or pierced.  Every one has an eccentric side.  Every one is incredibly vulnerable.

This is probably true of everyone, but I don’t make this level of connection with other people.  Other people are more guarded or care more about maintaining a particular impression.  Yarn folk aren’t scared to be judged, it seems.  They open up, and they wrap others in love.  In my other world or work people are bruised, insecure and defensive.  They don’t let others in easily.  They are judgmental, and often a tiny bit paranoid.

You all know I get wound up by work. We all do in different ways but I don’t always manage stress in the ways that proper people who do my job are supposed to – I swear in my office, get sad, beat myself up over trivia and convince myself I shouldn’t be doing what I do.  I always assumed I was good at concealing this from others though.  Last week, however, a random yarn friend, someone who only knows me from my Facebook posts about yarn, messaged me out of the blue.  It was just a single line email to tell me something positive about how they saw me.  That was it.  Apparently I needed to know, and she wasn’t wrong.  But how she knew that in that moment I needed that little injection of happy, I just don’t know.

Today, I opened the first packages in two different advent yarn boxes I received in the post.  One I expected, the other I had no memory of ordering.  I was confused but assumed that in a moment of tiredness and weakness I must have ordered it and forgotten about it.  I hadn’t, it was an unsolicited gift from another yarn friend.

People with the highest mountains to climb and the broadest shoulders have the biggest hearts.  Thank you both.

Can’t beat a bit of brioche…

So, those of you following my exploits know that I have fallen in love with brioche knitting.  On Wednesday night I sat up late and worked away on my I-cord bind off and finally finished my briochexplosion wrap.  I loved making it, and as ever I popped a photo up on my instagram feed.  I then collapsed into bed and slept the sleep of the smug knitter who has finished a much loved WIP.

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In the morning I woke up and looked at my phone.  I have never had so many likes for one of my projects as I have had for this wrap.  It has really taken me back.  The yarns I used were by Lollipop Guild Yarns and Dye Candy, and they really complemented each other.  I wanted to go with a denim colour as my neutral tone because I wear jeans so much, and because to my eye denim goes with everything really.  Apparently other folk liked it too. A lot.

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Anyway, I got to wear it to work on Thursday, like a comfort blanket.  And like a comfort blanket it did help me through a particularly stressful day when I had to be a proper grown up and try to do things that I really didn’t want to do.  But armed with my cloak of awesomeness I found that I could do anything.  It must never leave my side!

Shieldmaiden Shawl

You have probably already seen this on my Instagram feed, but my latest shawl has been up on Ravelry for a couple of weeks now and it is called the Shieldmaiden.  This is mainly because the shape of the shawl reminded me of a shield and then Sam dyed up two amazing colourways – one in icy white and blues and another in different shades of rust and copper.  They both work well, but the yarn shown here is some Three Violet Buttons high twist sock yarn, which I used for the prototype.  Because the shawl is textured, it works well in a plain yarn, but because of the lace elements it also looks really striking in stronger coloured, variegated yarns.

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The feedback on the pattern so far has been great – apparently the instructions are pretty easy to follow and it looks to be a firm favourite for Christmas makes already.  I am so pleased with all this.  I love this shawl and I am so pleased so many other people love it too!

Exciting times

So on Saturday I went to Festiwool for the first time, and I was giving Sam a hand on the Unbelievawool stand.  I really enjoyed being on the other side of a yarn stall, and there was really fantastic atmosphere in the room, and it was a great day even though it rained or drizzled all day outside.  I met up with Sam the night before, and while I was waiting for her to arrive at the hotel I decided to sit and knit with a cup of tea to pass the time.  The waiting staff clearly thought I was some sort of mad, yarn-based bag lady, so I tried to keep my head down and tuck myself away.  Then Verity from Truly Hooked came over to admire my brioche wrap that I was working on.  A little bit of my brain exploded with excitement, because at the end of the day I am still a yarnie who is more than a little bit awestruck by the yarn goddesses.  Except for Sam of course.  She is normal, although I am scared of her for other reasons 😉

Anyway, I really enjoyed chatting to everyone and talking about projects etc with the people who came by.  One of my Thank You shawls was snaffled to feature in the fashion show, so that was just brilliant and I felt very honoured.  I was also massively honoured to meet one of the yarn clubbers, who was also exhibiting as she creates amazing things with felt and was on the stand next to ours.  She was such a lovely lady, and I was really touched to have her as one of our gang of shawl makers.  In fact she had some of my shawls on her stand for sale so that was really exciting to see – somehow it made all this feel a bit more real and less like a dream.  Jackie, I know you read this blog – thank you for your support, I am raising my tea mug to you as I type!  I also got to buy some yarn from a new dyer – the skein at the top of the page is a Little French Meadow colourway that looks like it will be perfect for socks.  I couldn’t resist it.

I learned so much about exhibiting from that bit of work experience, and I have some more coming up as I am going to help Sue Stratford out with her stall at Harrogate’s Knitting and Stitching Show in a week or so.  That is going to be completely different – much busier and more intense, but it is a pleasure to help out a friend who is also going through a career transition.  Sue, as you may know, is known for her books of novelty knits but she also runs the Knitting Hut in Woburn Sands.  Sadly for us she has taken the decision to close her little shop to focus on her design work, which is the right thing to do but the hut has been such a wonderful welcoming place for us over the years.  I live a long way away, but I am a regular (if infrequent) visitor and my daughter has been visiting since before she was born.  She usually comes in and a big tray is set on the floor for her to tip all the button jars onto so that she can sort them out and generally play with them.  She has even sat in the shop window in the past.  So I am very sad to see the shop go and I am glad to spend time with Sue when she needs a hand, to say thank you for all of her support over the years.

In other exciting developments, my village has just started a social group for knitters and crafters.  The first session is tonight and I am a bit nervous about going, but I can’t resist the chance to spend a bit of time knitting in a pub.  I mean, how special is that?

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A nice distraction

It has been chaos here at Knackered Psycho HQ whilst some (much need) home renovations are going on.  The kitchen is the main focus.  Some would say it is just a very expensive excuse for replacing my microwave following the now infamous ‘blue dye’ incident, when my friend and I (in a desperate attempt to exhaust some blue dye we had used on some yarn) heated the bowl of yarn until it exploded.  Top tip kids – leave blue dye to the professionals!

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Anyway, my yarn room has become a dumping ground for the contents of my kitchen (along with every other room in the house), and I have taken solace in learning how to brioche knit.  When I was at Wonderwool, I met the lady behind Coop Knits, and she was wearing an amazing brioche wrap that she had made with yarn scraps.  The texture of brioche knitting is so tactile and colourful and I was desperate to give it a go.

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After starting and ripping back five failed attempts I finally got my head around it and now I am totally addicted.  I am making a Stephen West briochexplosion wrap using blue yarn dyed for me (I learned my lesson) by Rox of Lollipop Guild Yarns, and various yarns by Hutch of Dye Candy.  The effect is exactly what I was hoping for and so far (touch wood) I haven’t screwed it up too badly.  I can’t wait to get it finished.

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My next post will be a reveal of a new crochet pattern – something I probably would never have tried to make without prompting, but I am so pleased with it.  Watch this space!

A few of my favourite things…

Yesterday I had happy post.  As regular readers will know, I have been on a yarn ban since Fibre East to try to get my stash down to respectable levels.  However, temptation is all around and sometimes I see something that I can’t resist because it is in ‘my’ colours.  Step forward Lady Margolotta by Helen at Bare Threads.  I love blacks, and purples and blues and there they all were, perfectly combined.  It was late at night.  I was browsing Etsy after a long and tiring week back at work.  I was weak.  It spoke to me. I was good, and stopped at just the one skein, even though Helen’s shop had others that I would have loved to buy.

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In the same late night Etsy session, I also was looking at Down the Rabbit Hole – a shop that sells nerdy jewellery (this is a good thing).  She had a sale on. And I saw this.

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It is a serotonin molecule.  Serotonin is a neurotransmitter linked to feelings of happiness and reduced levels of it are implicated in a range of psychological conditions, including depression, anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder. So as a psychologist, and as a human being, serotonin is pretty significant so I fell for that necklace too.

So both things arrived on Saturday and I felt pretty happy, and I starting thinking about my other favourite things.  My logo I still absolutely love, even though the brain isn’t quite as it should be, but somehow that makes it more appropriate as most of the time I am sure my brain isn’t wired the way it should be.  In particular it doesn’t have a motor cortex.  If you have seen how clumsy I am, you would wonder if I do too.

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The mug is a favourite thing too, not least because it contains tea.  I drink tea constantly.  And I do mean constantly.  It is a miracle I achieve anything really between trips to the kettle or the loo.  But it is a daily ritual that makes me feel settled and content and that is no bad thing. Tea is a comforting thing when everything else is crazy.  Including me.

Finally, something else that makes me happy is seeing my makes going to a new home where they are loved.  Today I gave a pair of slouchy slox to a friend of mine, and she seems to genuinely adore them.  I got this picture of them on her toes tonight. I feel like a superhero.  My work here is done.

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All Change…

Small person is now at school. After a blissfully long period away from work, chaos ensues. The working day has been chopped and changed to try to fit everything in around the new routine of the school day because I don’t want small person to be stuck in after school clubs unless we really have no alternative, or because there is something she really wants to stay late to do.  To be honest, I think we are doing better than I thought that we might, but already I can see that the only way I am going to get everything done this month for the day job is going to be through some very late ones where I can sneak them in. Small person is coping well, other than having a strained lunchtime relationship with a boy who claims to be allergic to peas.  My insights into her world are often piecemeal and a bit surreal…

A random positive from this is that now that I am back at work I am now into the routine of crocheting in the car on the way into and out of work (not when I am driving, obviously), and to and from work meetings on the train.  These regular but shortish bouts keep me on track, which is just as well as I need to test some of the shawl projects that will come out later this year, as well as crack on with some birthday and Christmas presents.  I have a lot of knitting to get through on that front, so little and often will be the way to go.  I think everyone will be getting socks this year…

That includes me.  Maybe.  I decided I needed a treat so I am working on these slox in a yarn by Made by Jude.  I haven’t bought her yarns before but I saw this yarn in Etsy and fell in love with the colours in it.  It has worked up even better than I dared to hope. I even have a little flame up one side of my heel.  I am hoping I can replicate this colour pooling on sock number 2!  Not sure whether to keep them or not but I think I will, just for a change.  The response to them on my Facebook page has been great though, and I think I need to explore more of Jude’s yarns.  The depth of colour in the yarn is just beautiful.

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Taking Refuge in Tea

Well, today has been one of those landmark days that I have been trying not to think about.  My small person had her last day at nursery today.  They had a little party planned so we parents all packed them off this morning with cake and other sources of sugar, deposited them at the nursery door, and ran before anyone could get too emotional or before the nursery staff realised how much sugar the children were due to consume and tried to call us all back. I was kind.  I put booze in the teachers’ goody bags to get them through it.

While I have been on leave I have taken to nipping to Toft once a week for a brew and some crochet time, and my friend has started to join me. Toft is pretty local to me so it is a nice place to go and hang out and they don’t look at you strangely if you get out a hook and start crocheting as that, after all, is what they are all about.  Today I headed there to distract myself from the events of the day, and indulge in my other daily ritual / obsession – tea drinking.  I take tea drinking to Olympic levels, and have to regulate my intake.  Most of it is driven by the ritual of doing something comforting, and so tea and yarn go hand-in-hand for me.  Plus a cheeky cake. Nom nom.  They do a fine brew and chew at Toft.  Plus you get to say hello to their adorable alpacas and fondle yarn.

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Toft Studio is a barn conversion with a cafe at one end, a workshop space at the other, and lots of yarn and other knitting and hooking goodies in the middle. It has the most peaceful atmosphere and the friendliest staff working there.  You feel welcome there, and welcome to linger.  I don’t make many toys, although I do have a copy of Edward’s Menagerie, but I have made one of the Toft shawls.  It was in a fine alpaca and silk mix yarn (which was a so-and-so to frog when you needed to fix a mistake), worked on a tiny 2.5mm hook, but the finished scarf looks amazing (much better than these pictures would suggest) and it is one of my favourite makes, even though it was one of my early projects and therefore full of mistakes.

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Anyway, back to today. I managed to finish the new version of the Christmas shawl (minus edging) and get that on the blocking wires before I headed out for my cuppa.  So I was bathed in an air of mild smugness that only comes from finally nailing something that was on the to do list. Fruit crumble shortbread was in order. With tea. I think this habit of going there once a week is one I am going to try to maintain when I am back at work.  It has been good for my soul.

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I have test shawls to make for the pattern photos, but other than that I feel on top of my ‘must do’ commitments.  The problem I now have is that I am itching to either make something totally new so I can challenge myself a bit, or something that is just as a treat for me (i.e. socks in one of the special yarns I have been keeping for just such an occasion).  I am not sure which way I will wobble. I probably just need to find the right thing in my masses of books and patterns. And a brew will probably help too.